Thursday, November 22, 2012


Tomorrow, Americans take a break to get together with family and friends over a sumptuous turkey dinner.   Especially, Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to pause and gaze at the beauty of the earth during the fall season, as well as praise God for the bounty so graciously given to us.

Those outside America might wonder how Thanksgiving came about.  According to my children's illustrated book,  in 1620, Pilgrims sailed over from England on the Mayflower ship to escape a hard life there.  Half of the Pilgrims were Separatists who wanted to establish a new church - these were the Puritans.

Their first winter in 1620 was dismal and it was only the following fall that their fields were full of ripe corn and other vegetables which included carrots, turnips and onions.  It was the food introduced to them by the native Americans that provided them the most of their food - corn, beans, squash and pumpkins.

The Pilgrims therefore wanted to celebrate with a harvest festival as a gesture of thanksgiving to God.  They also invited the native Americans who lived alongside during this time of peace.  Turkey was apparently served during that first Thanksgiving as the Pilgrims had been familiar with the meat even before they had left England.  Ironically, it was the Mexican Indians who first knew how to tame wild turkey.  The Spanish explorers liked the meat enough to take wild turkey with them back to Spain, from where the bird became popular throughout Europe.

Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday and also picked Thursday as the day to celebrate it.

Happy Thanksgiving

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Chicken Rice

As Americans get ready to spend Thursday with Tom Turkey, I yearned for its little cousin a few nights ago.  Craving for that old Singapore favorite, I invited my niece to join us at dinner for home-cooked chicken rice.  In fact, her father had been the one who had imparted his cooking instructions many years ago.  His philosophy, as a student in London in the 70s, is that if you are homesick for a dish, you survive by learning how to cook it.

We Singaporeans bond over chicken rice and it is simple to prepare.  And when we return home, we make it a point to have it at least once at one of several traditional outlets:
- Boon Tong Kee
- Loy Kee 
- Wee Nam Kee
- Swee Kee
- Five Star

My brother-in-law's recipe is amazingly simple, so much so that I nickname it 'combat chicken' because it saves me from tedious food preparation and we can survive any form of homesickness for the real thing back home.

Bring a large stockpot of water to a rolling boil.  (I tend to add some salt to the water).
Clean the inside cavity of a 4 pound chicken.  Trim the chicken fat and keep aside.  Stuff the chicken with about 4 tablespoons of shredded ginger. As an option, tie the chicken as you would for roasting for even cooking.  Place the chicken in the boiling water and cook for 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a saute pan.  Add the reserved chicken fat, a few slices of ginger and 3 cups of white rice grains.  Gently stir fry until the rice grains are coated with oil from the fat and begin to look translucent.  (For the health-conscious, substitute the chicken fat with canola oil.)  Transfer rice to the rice cooker.

When the chicken is done, remove from the stockpot and run the chicken under cold water to stop the cooking process.  Use the chicken stock to cook the rice,  adding enough liquid such that the top level is about one finger digit from the level of the rice.

Chop the chicken into pieces, separating the drumsticks and the wings and then cutting up the breast meat into thinner 1/2 inch slices.   Drizzle sesame oil and light soy sauce.  Garnish with cilantro, spring onions and sliced cucumber and tomato.

Serve with warm chicken rice.

Accompany with dark soy sauce, special chicken rice ginger sauce and chili sauce  (I suggest Singlong, Glory or Kee's brand).



Monday, November 12, 2012

Happy Diwali

Here are photos of our summer jaunt to India.... a place rich in history, culture, architecture and cuisine.
Below the photos is a list of Indian cookbooks that teach me and fascinate me.

Kerala Cookery by K.M. Matthew
A classic compilation of Keralan cuisine which frequently features coconut and seafood.   K.M. Mathew is a legend in this southern region of India and is related to a good friend of mine.

Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking
Possibly the most familiar name associated with authentic Indian cooking, this book was highly recommended to me by my Indian friends in business school.

Cooking Delights of The Maharajas by Digvijaya Singh 
A former co-worker who is descended from one of the royal maharaja families in Rajasthan would proudly cook dishes for us from this "food bible" among Indian aristocrats.

The Raj Cookbook, A Complete Lifestyle Album
A fascinating account of how the British lived during the Raj.  Recipes include mulligatawny soup.  There are menus to illustrate daily meals for the expats.

Gourmet's Gateway by Rajmata Gayatri Devi of Jaipur 
Another royal cookbook from the late and most glamorous Maharani of Jaipur.

The Emperor's Table by Salma Husain
Winner of "Best in the World" Gourmand Cookbook Award, this book gives an account of culinary history during the Mughal period.

Royal Cuisine of Rajasthan by Dharmendra Kanwar 
Yet another look at the Northern cuisine from Rajasthan.

The Great Curries of India by Camellia Panjabi 
A good orientation of the different curries and where they originate from various regions in India.  Written by the Marketing director of the Taj Hotels Group.

Street Food of India by Sephi Bergerson
Pictures paint a thousand words and bring home nostalgia for my Indian friends who now live outside of the subcontinent.

Indian Heritage Cooking by Sanmugam and Kasinathan 
A Singapore cookbook that traces the history and influences of Singapore's Indian cuisine.  I gave a copy to my friends in Delhi and they appreciated the insightful information.

My Bombay Kitchen by Niloufer Ichaporia King
Cookbooks about tight knit communities speak directly to me, given my Peranakan heritage.  This is one of them - about Parsi home cooking in Bombay.

Indian Cooking by Pushpesh Pant
Proudly declaring a weight of 1.5Kg and 1000 recipes, this brick-like Phaidon publication will be a fun but serious gift for anyone who loves Indian food.

Indonesia in Amsterdam

For years, my daughter had wanted to visit Amsterdam. We were cautioned by friends that parts of the city - particularly Dam Square - m...